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17th Sep 2019

A salute to Ash Ketchum, a sports hero we can be proud of

Wil Jones

After over two decades, Ash Ketchum has finally become a Pokemon master, in the latest episode of the animated series 

Ash Ketchum started out like most of us. Just a kid, with a dream. A dream to be the very best, like no one ever was. 

Twenty-two years ago, the Pokemon anime first aired in Japan, in April 1997. Ten-year old Ash Ketchum left his home and his mother (the identity of his father was mysteriously never revealed, some have theorised that it was Mr Mime), and went off into the world. Many said that a ten-year old shouldn’t be living alone like that. But they were wrong. 

For many years, Ash was decidedly a third-stringer, tagging along with losers like Misty and Brock, a guy incapable of talking and keeping his eyes open at the same time. But he plugged away, and enthralled us, repeatedly making us late for school because Sky One would show a double bill between 8am and 9am, and it was vital to find out if we could capture that Clefairy 

Many of us moved on with our lives  we grew up, moved on, and stopped watching Japanese cartoons (or at least moved on to Dragon Ball Z). We maybe only paid attention back to Pokemon when a new game dropped on the Switch.

But while we moved onto bigger things, Ash did not. He remained focused, obsessed even, and his adventures continue. Over more than a thousand episodes, he stuck at it, slowly working his way up the ladder.  

He progressed through the leagues, by 2002 reaching the top eight on of the Johto championship. It took him another 14 years to crack the top two of a tournament. But then, in the 1,079th episode, during the twenty-second season (now titled Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon – Ultra Legend), Ash finally did it. He won the the Alola League and sure, the animation is made with computers now, and the voice actors have all changed and it just sounds wrong, but Ash had made it. 

Ash Ketchum is the hero we need. While so many of our top tier sports heroes are dragged down by unfortunate tweets, various allegations or just generally regrettable behaviour, Ash is someone we can truly look up to – a good guy who has worked hard and kept his head down. 

He was not interested in flashy clothes or extravagant purchases – he was content with his naff red baseball cap and wearing the same, presumably filthy clothes, over and over again each day. He was a refreshing change to the Garys of the world.

This is what we watch sport for. The true underdog stories. The fairy tales that we never thought could happen. We haven’t seen the likes of this since Leicester won the Premier League in 2016. Truly, Ash Ketchum and Wes Morgan are one and the same.